Is your yard covered in unmanageable, unbreakable clay soil? Do you feel like it’s holding you back from growing your own vegetable garden?
Clay soil, just like any other kind of soil, can be worked and used to plant and cultivate vegetables, plants, and shrubs.
One way to improve the condition of clay soil is by tilling. This post focuses on how to choose a tiller for hard clay soil.
First, we’ll walk you through how to know if your soil is clay or not. Then, we’ll talk about some important features to look for in a clay soil tiller. Let’s get started.
How to Choose a Tiller for Hard Clay Soil: Buyer’s Guide
You can enjoy a garden full of colorful, healthy plants even with clay soil. All you need is a green thumb and some bits of information to help you along your way.
How to Know if Your Soil Is Clay?
Let’s start at the beginning. There are four types of soil: silt, loam, sand, and clay. The first two are the most ideal for gardening. With those, you’ll have no problem growing almost any type of plant your heart desires.
However, the latter two can be a bit tricky. It’s still possible to grow a wide selection of plants in sandy or clay soil. They just need more elbow grease than the other two soil types.
Today, we’re focusing on clay soil only. First, how do you know if your soil is clay?
Here’s a little trick you can try: pick up a handful of soil, preferably damp, and squeeze it. Does it fall apart once you open your hand? If so, then you have sandy soil.
If it stays in one piece but crumbles when you prod it with your finger, it could be either silt or loam.
If the soil stays in one clump and doesn’t crumble when you prod it with your finger, you most likely have clay soil. This type of soil is typically reddish-brown as well.
Clay is known for its slow water absorption rate. And once it dries, it forms a crust and begins to crack.
While it can be difficult at times, clay soil can be great for your garden. One benefit is that it provides plants with nutrients and minerals, so you don’t need to fertilize as much.
That being said, it also comes with a couple of disadvantages. The good news is that you can improve the state of this demanding soil. All you need is a bit of hard work and routine tilling.
Features to Consider for Your Tiller
Knowing whether your soil is clay or not is the first part of the job. The second part is knowing how to choose a tiller for your hard clay soil.
We made a list of some of the most important features to consider. Keep reading to make sure you pick the right tool for you.
Strength of Tiller
When it comes to tilling hard clay soil, you’re going to need a heavy-duty, sturdy machine. Working with this type of soil can be challenging. It’s sticky when wet and clumpy when dry. Therefore, the most suitable option has to be something with a powerful engine that can bite into the hard-to-manage soil.
Look for a clay soil tiller that has a high turning force engine. These engines won’t die or lose momentum once the tines bite into the soil.
Another optimal feature would be to have driven wheels with rear tines. An ergonomic handle for easy maneuvering and better control would also be beneficial.
A major factor when choosing a tiller for clay soil is to determine the size of your space. For wide, open spaces, it’s better if you use a larger, professional-grade tiller. It’ll have the stamina needed for such a large area.
Not only that, but large tillers are wider. This means they get the job done quickly and more efficiently.
For smaller gardens, you can opt for corded tillers. They’re easier to maneuver and have the advantage of getting into tight spaces without a fuss. Yet, be sure to look at the transmission to make sure it’s powerful enough to deal with hard clay soil.
If you’re like us and love a great bargain, look for a tiller that comes with attachments. These help with specific tasks, like furrowing or trimming. So, you get the versatility you need along with a high-quality product at a great value.
Engine Maintenance vs. Battery Replacement
Gas-powered clay soil tillers are a terrific choice for vast, sizable gardens. You don’t have to bother yourself with batteries or cords. Simply refill the tank and you’re good to go. Their only downside is they need constant maintenance.
Battery-operated tillers are also great for large areas. You don’t have to worry about being near any outlets. You just have to make sure to charge the battery beforehand, or carry an extra one with you, and you’re all set.
Even though they’re pretty straightforward and low-maintenance, the downside is that batteries on electric tillers aren’t as long-lasting as other types. They lose their strength and need to be replaced regularly.
The third option is corded electric tillers. These do away with the battery problem altogether. The main concern will be where to plug it in. If your garden size is small and you have a nearby power outlet, then you have nothing to worry about.
However, you still have to deal with the cord. Be careful you don’t loop the cord around anyone or anything as you’re tilling the soil.
Picking a tiller that fits your budget and can still do what it’s supposed to without fail. On average, prices start at less than $200 and can go all the way up to $1,000.
It’s worth mentioning that buying a reliable tiller is one of the most important investments you can make for your garden. So, the first thing you have to do is figure out the most suitable type of tiller for you.
The next step is to make a list of several relevant models. Then, compare all their specifications and prices. This way, you’ll know you picked the tiller that gets the job done while still being within your budget. Here are the top three choices we’ve found.
The 3 Best Tillers for Hard Clay Soil – Reviews
#1. Schiller Grounds Care 7920 Mantis 2-Cycle Tiller & Cultivator
- Comes with a handy carrying handle
- Entire unit weighs Only 20-pounds
- Handle Bars fold down for easy storage
The Schiller Grounds Care 7920 Mantis 2-Cycle Tiller & Cultivator is our top pick for the best tiller to use on clay soil. It is really lightweight at only 20 pounds, and can fold up for easy, low impact storage. It’s powerful 2-cycle engine produces more power with less weight because it is placed directly over the tines, allowing you to punch through even the toughest soil easily. Additionally, it’s compact size allows you to till in tight spaces, as well as right next to fences or hedges.
#2. Earthwise TC70001 11-Inch 8.5-Amp Corded Electric Tiller/Cultivator
- Earthwise tiller with a powerful 8.5-Amp electric motor with superb run time and service life
- Corded electric tiller ideal for small to medium-sized gardens
- 4 tine cultivator long handle that can cultivate and till up to 11" wide and 8" deep
Next on our list is the Earthwise TC70001 11-Inch 8.5-Amp Corded Electric Tiller/Cultivator. This compact but powerful tiller is great at breaking through that hard top layer of soil, or digging down 8 inches deep and tilling a path 11 inches wide. It is corded, which means you don’t have to worry about refilling the gas or running out of power, and it easily starts with the push of a button and comes with a comfortable, ergonomic grip.
#3. YARDMAX YT5328 Compact 98cc Front Tine Tiller
The YARDMAX YT5328 Compact 98cc Front Tine Tiller is a great handheld tiller to use for a garden with clay soil. With it’s powerful, 98cc motor, the Yardmax gets 180 RPM rotational tilling speed, allowing it to punch through hard compact soil, and the durable ball bearing gear drive keeps it from breaking down from even the hardest tasks. A rear drag stake makes tilling depth easier to control, as well as providing a tight turn radius and handle.
A Final Note
In this post, we focused on clay soil. We showed you an easy, fool-proof way to determine the type of soil you’re dealing with, and also covered the basics when it comes to how to choose a tiller for hard clay soil.
Now, it’s up to you! Go out there and pick the best tiller for clay soil on the market. Remember to choose one that best suits your gardening needs, as well as your budget.
If you are still wondering exactly which one to choose, our recommendation would be the Schiller Mantis 2-Cycle Tiller. It is great at everything you’ll need for your lawn or garden and comes with a reasonable price tag.